Economic Indicators – Japan Exports Fall Most Since 2009 As Pandemic Wipes Out Global Demand

Japan’s exports fell the most since the 2009 global financial crisis in April as the coronavirus pandemic slammed world demand for cars, industrial materials and other goods, likely pushing the world’s third-largest economy deeper into recession.

The ugly trade numbers come as policymakers seek to balance virus containment measures against the need to revive battered parts of the economy, with the risk of a second wave of infections only complicating this challenge.



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The central bank will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to work out a scheme that would encourage financial institutions to lend to smaller, struggling firms. Policymakers are also considering cash injections for companies of all sizes.

Ministry of Finance (MOF) data on Thursday showed Japan’s exports fell 21.9% in April year-on-year as U.S.-bound shipments slumped 37.8%, the fastest decline since 2009, with car exports there plunging 65.8%.

The fall was the biggest since October 2009 during the global financial crisis, but slightly less than a 22.7% decrease seen by economists in a Reuters poll. Exports fell 11.7% in March.

“Reopening of trade with China led China-bound exports of electronics parts and imports of masks and PC, but trade with Europe, America and Southeast Asia remain shrunk,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.


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“It’s still far from fully-fledged resumption of economic activity. As exports and imports remain stagnant for a prolonged period of time, global trade will remain contractionary for the time being.”

Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, fell 4.1% in the year to April, due to slumping demand for chemical materials, car parts and medicines.

Shipments to Asia, which account for more than half of Japanese exports, declined 11.4%, and exports to the European Union fell 28.0%.

Other trade-reliant economies in Asia have also been hit with data on Thursday showing South Korea’s exports slumping by a fifth in the first 20 days of May, year-on-year.

Industry data released last week showed Japan’s machine tool orders in April fell to their lowest level in more than a decade, a sign of deteriorating business spending.

Japan’s economy slipped into recession for the first time in 4-1/2 years, putting the nation on course for its deepest postwar slump as the pandemic ravages businesses and consumers.





Monday’s first-quarter GDP data underlined the broadening impact of the outbreak, with first quarter exports plunging the most since the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

A private sector manufacturing survey showed on Thursday the decline in Japan’s factory activity accelerated in May as output and orders slumped.

Analysts warn of an even bleaker picture for the current quarter as consumption crumbled after the government in April requested citizens to stay home and businesses to close.



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Japan’s Coincident Index Suggests Economy May Be In Recession


tokyo-index


Japan‘s coincident indicator index declined in March and the government cut its assessment of the economy, a sign it may already be in recession as the U.S.-China trade war and weak external demand hurt activity.

Worries about the economy have grown as Japan’s exports and factory output were hit by China’s economic slowdown and the escalating U.S.-China trade friction, which had disrupted global supply chains.


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The index of coincident economic indicators, which consists of a range of data including factory output, employment and retail sales, fell a preliminary 0.9 of a point in March from the previous month, the Cabinet Office said on Monday.



In its view on the index, the government described the economy as “worsening”. That compared with its previous assessment for February when it described the economy at “a turning point towards a downgrade”.

The index for leading economic indicators is compiled using data such as job offers and consumer sentiment and is seen as a forward-looking gauge of the economy. It slipped 0.8 of a point from February.

Clouding the outlook are government plans to raise a sales tax to 10 percent from the current 8 percent in October unless a big shock on the scale of Lehman Brothers‘ collapse in 2008 hits the economy.

There is also speculation Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may postpone the sales tax hike as risks to demand grow, having already twice delayed it.


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There are concerns the sales tax increase will damage private consumption as it did so when Japan raised the tax to 8 percent from 5 percent in 2014.

Japan releases gross domestic product (GDP) data on May 20, which will give a clearer read on the state of the economy and whether the government will proceed with the tax hike as scheduled.

The economy likely contracted at an annualized 0.2 percent in January-March as corporate and consumer spending weakened, a Reuters poll showed.